Friday, April 12, 2013

Scarcity Mindset and the Hungry Soul

We are a planet of souls hungering for one thing and fruitlessly trying to feed that hunger with another. The only one who can change this for us is us, individually.

We can comment all we want to about the economy, but we need to look at our role played in it becoming the way it is. We played, and still play, our role from a scarcity mindset, which has led to all sorts of nonsense and discrepancies happening in our individual lives, our communities, and globally. And our souls continue to hunger as a result because we continue to try to quell this hunger with the incorrect sustenance. What can I possibly mean, you ask? I’ll explain by starting with a trend that amazed me when I learned about it.

One Sunday morning I went to the diner in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Annie (not her real name) had one job there and that was to make sure everyone who wanted coffee got it almost as soon as they sat down, and to keep it coming: definitely not a high-paying position, no matter how much we appreciated her service. That morning Annie looked upset. Since it was our routine to chat, I asked what was going on.

She explained that her daughter wanted a Sweet Sixteen birthday party and that to provide what she wanted, which they estimated to cost around $25,000, Annie and her husband were sweating out waiting for approval for a second mortgage on their home. The party date was getting close and she didn’t know what they’d do if they couldn’t get the money, and she wasn’t sure how they’d make the extra monthly payments, on their wages. According to TV episodes about these parties I paused to watch for a few minutes while channel surfing, Annie and her husband would be giving their daughter a party that might be considered a bit shabby, when compared to parents who could or would spend a hundred thousand dollars or more on such an event.

My thought then, and still, is: Since when?! Since when are parents obligated to provide a sixteenth birthday party that costs as much as a wedding might (or more), or spend as much as part of a college education (or an entire one); and perhaps go into debt to do so? Since someone gave such a party, and then others felt the need to match that or outdo it, which to me is a form of competing with no real useful purpose for doing so. What are we thinking?! What are we teaching the next generation about the value of money, self-worth, and fulfillment? What kind of economy and mindset (and burden) does this create in individual lives now and in the future?

We may say we want to be freed from money concerns, or feeling inauthentic, but do our beliefs and actions support this? Minister Joyce Meyer said, “You’re not free until you have nothing to prove and no need to impress anybody.”

Two weeks after I published an article about what I would call our not-enough syndrome (“I don’t have enough; I’m not enough) and how this impacts us every single day, and nearly every single experience we have, I got Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources. There was a segment in there about our not-enough mindset. It was so close to what I’d written that I was relieved I had printed proof that I’d read it weeks after I’d written what I had. It was, also, affirming to learn that I was in good company on this thought path.

The topic of what is enough brings to mind a segment in a documentary about the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One man realized a need that members of his community had, abandoned together as they were until others entered their part of New Orleans with relief and resources: Diapers. He filled a shopping cart with a variety of packaged sizes then looked for mothers who might need them. A woman carrying her infant approached him and asked if he had the size she needed. He sorted through the stacks and asked her how many packages she wanted. She responded, “Just one for now. I know there are other mothers who need them for their babies.” Those may not be her exact words, but they are as close as I can recall.

The man had taken the diapers from an unmonitored store that had been broken into by some who greedily took items not necessary for survival (theirs or anyone else’s), and by some, like him, who took only what was needed for survival or assistance. He didn’t charge for the diapers. And even if the mother would have preferred to make sure she had several packages on hand for her baby or had asked for several then sold a few for money she might need, her understanding and empathy for other mothers trying to care for their infants and toddlers in such dire conditions was her compassionate moral compass. These two people fed their souls through this action, not their pockets. Their actions also fed the souls of others who were in the mental-emotional space to witness this and understand it.

Our souls hunger and we feel this keenly. This hunger is buried beneath the hunger for more money so we can have more, often mostly so we can be “judged” more by others, and therefore feel or “finally” believe we are more than others have influenced us to believe. It’s a vicious merry-go-round we’re on; but the thing about a merry-go-round is you can choose to get off that mind-spinning ride.

In the book, Twist writes: This book is entitled The Soul of Money, but it is really about our own soul and how and why we often eclipse it, dismiss it, or compromise it in our relationship with money: the way we get money, use money, give money, and or sometimes just try to avoid thinking about money…. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough…. Sufficiency is not a message about simplicity or about cutting back and lowering expectations. Sufficiency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive or aspire. Sufficiency is an act of generating, distinguishing, making known to ourselves the power and presence of our existing resources and our inner resources.

Another thing I greatly appreciate is that Twist devotes an entire chapter to the topic of appreciation and the power within it. My own perspective considers the appreciation mindset as the opposite of scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset keeps you focused on problems, even if you falsely believe you’re focused on solutions; and this creates a most uncomfortable, frustrating circle that seems to have no end. An appreciation mindset lets you focus on the resources you have on hand and within you; and, sometimes these resources are all you have to get started or start over with. But a scarcity mindset will drag you down about this rather than lift you up. And it will attract more scarcity, whereas appreciation attracts more of what you need and want because you DO appreciate what you have and what you receive; and you put it to good use.

Pooling sentences from two paragraphs in the book, I offer this: "What you appreciate, and the way you direct your attention, determines the quality of your life…. In appreciation of all that we are and already have, we can resee the possibilities, identify a vision, make a commitment, and act on it."

When we focus on problems and scarcity, we can’t see the resources we are and have, resources that could help us move forward and feel and express our true strength and gifts. Except, we might tend to move forward to ease any financial strain we feel, which is understandable and perhaps needed, but what about the strain our soul feels from being so wrapped up in believing we’ll never be happy or fulfilled unless we have more money and stuff, in order to get nods of approval from others?

What about the fact that “more” is like the mathematical number Pi, a number that keeps going and we never find the end of it? At what point will enough money or stuff be enough so that we can feel the way our hungry soul wants to feel? The hungry soul will never be fed by money and stuff, only by fulfillment; fulfillment can be equated with meaning, meaningfulness. We have to figure out what fulfillment means to us, separate from money and stuff, separate from the opinions of those stuck on the scarcity, not-enough, gotta-have-more-to-feel-I’m-more merry-go-round. Please understand that there is nothing wrong with having more; the problem stems from what the motivation for more is about.

Our lack of understanding the soul of money, which Twist explains in the book, is one aspect of our hunger. I’d say another or the other aspect is self-love. Lack of appropriate love for our selves is another epidemic, just as scarcity mindset is; but I believe they tend to walk hand-in-hand. If we truly love and appreciate ourselves, and understand what creates fulfillment or meaning for us, what choices will we make about how we earn money, use or spend money, teach the next generations about money, and contribute or donate money and why and to achieve what result? One fact is that a soul can hunger in a person with great monetary wealth as readily as it can with someone struggling to pay basic monthly expenses. So, it isn’t necessarily or only about the money, but the hungering of the soul that needs addressing.

You know if you need to re-examine your relationship with money, and whether or not you have a scarcity or sufficiency mindset. You know if your self-love has fullness, and whether or not you know and consistently reassess what creates or would create fulfillment for you. If any of these are out of balance, your soul is hungering and you can find what satisfies it.

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to pause for just a moment from the incessant pursuit of more so that we can feel and know we are more, and recognize and appreciate what we have and who we are, including and especially our skills and talents that provide value to others and fulfillment for us; what we can do with what we have; and find our getting-off point from the scarcity-mindset merry-go-round. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.           

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

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